Earth Day 2.0 is about more than benefits of recycling

Banneker Historical Park and Museum will host an Earth Day celebration April 25

Forty-five years ago today, the first-ever Earth Day was held around the world. It focused on educating people about the simple things they could do at home to help lighten their footprint on the local environment.

Today, people understand that they should recycle plastic and turn off the lights when they leave home or go to bed, some local environmentalists say.

So the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum is looking to give them the next level of environmental responsibility.

"I like to think, as a society, we know the right thing to do on a lot of fronts and we're still trying to figure out the right thing to do on a lot of other fronts," said Krisztian Varsa, a regional watershed restoration specialist at the University of Maryland Extension Office. "Now we're asking people to kind of take that next step."

Varsa will be among those at information tables during the museum's Earth Day celebration on April 25 that will feature activities and presentations for all ages.

The historical park and museum's celebration will help attendees learn more advanced ways to live sustainably. For children, there will be live owls and hawks, frogs, turtles and a snake, along with nature-centered crafts such as seed bombs and make-your-own trail mix. Adults are invited to learn about gardening tips and native plants, among other activities. Plants native to the Baltimore region will also be on sale at the event.

Varsa will offer guidance on helping to control water runoff, especially in regards to rain gardens and watersheds that resident can implement as part of their own at-home conservation efforts.

Many people today are aware of a need to protect the environment, he said, but they are unsure of how to go about it in a more pro-active way.

For example, the need for a healthy bee population has become widely recognized, but people now have to make the connection between caring for the bee population and taking action, like implementing strategies in their own gardening or landscaping that help, he said.

"If you want to support local bees, native plants are a great way to do that," he said. "There are a lot of things that you can do."

"Education has moved beyond just 'recycle,'" said Kathy Kadow, administrative aide at the Banneker museum and longtime naturalist.

Many people know the basic do-nots of environmental conservation, she said, and have reached the point where they want to know what more they can do.

With more exhibitors hosting table displays than ever before at the annual Earth Day party, Kadow said the staff at the Oella facility is expecting a turnout of nearly 300 — up from last year's 200.

The event, she said, is the museum's second-largest all year, trailing only the Colonial Market Fair in attendance.

In addition to the activities and stations clearly steered toward one age range, the event will also include a variety of learning opportunities for attendees of all ages, such as trail hikes and information about bats and their positive impact on the environment.

"There's so much that people don't know," Kadow said. "Adults bring the children, but the adults are getting just as much out of if as the children."

Over the past few years, Earth Day has become far more recognized, but the message the organizers of the first Earth Day intended to send is still relevant, insist both Kadow and Varsa.

It's gone from being aimed largely at awareness to focusing increasingly more on teaching participants around the world how to take the health of the environment into their own hands.

"It can't just be about one day or seven days," Varsa said, noting that some organizations have taken the opportunity in recent years to host events that last all week. "It's got to be 365."

"But," he added, "for some people, it starts with one day."

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